•Extends caretakers’ tenure by six months
•Expels former national vice chairman Eta
• Urges president to shelve meeting with N’Assembly
Omololu Ogunmade, Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
With the dissolution yesterday of organs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the state, zonal and national levels, President Muhammadu Buhari and governors of the party have tightened their hold on the party.
The APC National Executive Committee (NEC) had risen from its emergency meeting in the State House, Abuja with a resolution dissolving the party’s organs.
The NEC also extended by six months the tenure of the party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, headed by Yobe State Governor, Mr. Mai Mala Buni.
The caretaker committee was raised in June following the dissolution of the National Working Committee (NWC), led by Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, whose suspension plunged the party into a leadership crisis with two factions of the party laying claims to its interim chairmanship.
The caretaker committee, saddled with the task of reconciling factions in the party and organising a national convention that will birth a new party leadership, was given till December 25 to conclude its assignment.
The NEC also announced the expulsion of the party’s former National Vice Chairman (South-south), Mr. Hilliard Eta, who had gone to court, seeking a judicial review of the sacking of the Oshiomhole-led NWC.
It was also gathered that the NEC queried the summon of the president by the House of Representatives and prevailed on him to rescind his decision to appear before the joint session of the National Assembly tomorrow to brief the lawmakers on what his administration is doing to tackle the worsening insecurity in the country.
With the dissolution of the party’s structures, the president, along with the governors, who form the two major power blocs in the party will play dominant roles in picking candidates to fill the various posts when the structures are being reconstituted.
Analysts told THISDAY yesterday that the reconstitution of the party structures will give the president and the governors leverage in deciding how the party’s candidates will emerge ahead of the 2023 general election as they will ensure that only people whose loyalty they can count on emerge as party leaders from ward to national levels.
Osinbajo Advises against Dissolution
The dissolution, THISDAY gathered, was not without a little drama as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) was said to have cautioned the body against it, warning of its legal consequences.
He was said to have advised that the dissolution might be seen as unconstitutional given that the organs had prescribed tenure, warning that a legal challenge to it might succeed.
Buhari was said to have angrily cut him short, saying that was the more reason the caretaker committee should be given more power to deal with litigants within the party.
Osinbajo’s intervention probably led to the face-saving decision to dissolve the organs and constitute them into caretaker committees in an acting capacity.
Gbajabiamila on the Spot
A prominent South-west governor was also said to have put Speaker Gbajabiamila on the spot for allowing the motion summoning the president to pass, advising Buhari to ignore the invitation.
Although Buni was said to have concluded that the party had decided that Buhari should not appear in the National Assembly tomorrow, Gbajabiamila reportedly interjected and said that it would be the president’s prerogative to determine whether to honour the summon or not.
But briefing journalists after the NEC meeting, Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, along with his counterparts in Imo and Ondo States, Senator Hope Uzodinma and Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, said the committee also directed the immediate reconstitution of the dissolved organs in an acting capacity.
“NEC approved the immediate dissolution of the party’s organs at the polling unit, ward, local government, state and zonal levels as well as the non-National Working Committee component of the National Executive Committee as well as their immediate reconstitution and composition of the dissolved excos to serve in their respective offices in a caretaker committee capacity but excluding the non-NWC members of NEC,” el-Rufai said.
He explained that the party extended the tenure of the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee of the party by another six months.
The committee had been constituted by the last NEC meeting of the party on June 25 to address lingering crises plaguing the party, and to conduct a national convention of the party within six months with the deadline being December 25.
But about six months after, the committee failed to unveil agenda for the convention, culminating in accusations by some party members that it had deliberately opted not to conduct the convention within the stipulated time in order to elongate its tenure.
But el-Rufai said the tenure of the committee had been extended for another six months, expiring on June 30, 2021 during which it will conclude its assignment.
He explained that the party granted the power of waivers to the caretaker committee in accordance with Articles 13.3, sub-section 5 and 13.3 sub-section 6 of the APC Constitution to empower the committee to grant waivers to new entrants into the party so that they can contest elections and enjoy the privileges of party membership.
The waiver will clear the legal hurdles for recent defectors to the party such as former House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and Ebonyi State Governor, Chief Dave Umahi, to vie for elective positions on the party’s platform.
El-Rufai said NEC also expelled Eta for instituting a suit against the party and ignoring the party’s directive to members to withdraw all court cases.”
Eta, however, dismissed his expulsion and dared the party.
The governor said the meeting was a combination of both physical and virtual participation of Buhari, all APC governors and members of NEC in the National Assembly.
He added that the council condemned calls by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the resignation of Buhari over the increasing spate of insecurity in the country.
According to him, even though security crisis threatening the country is regrettable, it requires the collaboration of all to overcome it.
“Finally, the NEC condemns in very strong terms, the call by the PDP leadership and some of their cheer leaders for the resignation of Mr. President.
“NEC observes that security challenges, though regrettable, can only be addressed when all interest, civil and military governments and opposition, security forces and indeed all citizens collaborate irrespective of party affiliation. This is not the time to politicise security,” he added.
In his speech at the meeting, Buhari said he was satisfied by the performance of the caretaker committee and highlighted some of its achievements.
He added that initiatives of the committee since June had resulted in progress and renewed hope.
He canvassed the need for the party members to rekindle the spirit that led to the success of mergers of 2014, which eventually culminated in the party’s victory at the polls by respecting resolutions of the party.
Buhari, who acknowledged the recent defection of Umahi, to the party, said various approaches and strategies, which sustained the mergers and APC’s eventual triumph, should be reinvented.
According to him, there were mutual respect and trust among members at the time, pleading with members to rekindle such spirit and make sacrifices aimed at rebuilding the party.
He said: “I want to appeal to all our party members and leaders at all levels to try and make the required sacrifices so that we are able to collectively restore our progressive and democratic political party, which can nurture and give expression to our collective dream of building a strong, united and developed Nigeria.
“May I use this opportunity to remind all of us of the need to recreate our negotiation secret of 2012, 2013 under our legacy parties. What guided our success to achieve the merger that produced the APC was the respect we were able to have for each other.
“In those times, decisions reached at both formal and informal consultations were respected with trusted initiatives taken and believed that they were needed to produce the required political platform that could guarantee electoral victory.”
Buhari stated that the party’s quest for unity should not be subjected to debate, adding that “our shared vision is to ensure that we are able to produce leaders that will not inherit the problems that led to the decision to dissolve our last national working committee.”
APC: Dissolution of Party’s Structure Not Aimed At Reducing Tinubu’s Influence
However, amidst speculations that the dissolution of the party structures was targeted at cutting to size some APC chieftains ahead of the 2023 general election, APC dismissed claims that the decision was aimed at reducing the influence of its National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, who is speculated to be nursing a presidential ambition.
He has, however, denied the speculation.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Yekini Nabena, told THISDAY during a telephone interview that the dissolution was part of the ongoing efforts to reposition the party.
He stated: “There was nothing like that. Nobody is getting back at anybody; nobody is undoing anybody. It is repositioning the party. Is it only Lagos State that was dissolved? It was across the whole states, why will anybody now say that is focused on anybody.”
He clarified that the state executives that were dissolved have been made to act in an acting capacity.
“Were they (state chairmen) not made acting? They were dissolved and they were all made acting. They are now in an acting capacity.”
Eta: My Expulsion, a Nullity
Eta has, however, described his expulsion by NEC of the party as a nullity.
He told journalists in a phone interview after his expulsion that the acting National Secretary of the party, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, has no power to convene the NEC meeting.
He stated: “I am already in court. The lawyers amongst them should have told them that they can’t make that pronouncement since I am in court.
“Their action is a nullity because it isn’t even the NEC of the party that met. Their so-called acting national secretary has no power to convene NEC.”
But, a group, Concerned APC Members, which has been mounting pressure on the caretaker committee to organise a national convention for the party said the pronouncements by NEC did not come as a surprise.
The spokesperson of the group, Mr. Abdullahi Dauda, in a telephone interview yesterday, said this was the beginning of another long journey for the party.
He said: “The pronouncement by our party’s NEC did not come to us as a surprise, we knew about the plot long before today. We wish to say it is the beginning of another long journey for our party.
“If those who have hijacked the party think they can frustrate us out of a party so many people came together to build, they should think again because we are not leaving. We as loyal members of this great party will continue to ask our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, not to allow a few selfish individuals misguide him into taking actions that will destroy this party.”
Also, the Enugu State Chairman of APC and the Secretary, Forum of State Chairmen, Dr. Ben Nwoye, told journalists in a telephone interview that the decision of the NEC to dissolve the structures of the party was in the interest of the party.
He explained that by the time the tenure of the caretaker committee ends, the party would be more formidable.
Nwoye stated: “The outcome of the NEC meeting was in the interest of the party to further strengthen the party and further streamline the processes and solidify the party.”
When asked if that was the official position of the forum, he said yes.
Also, the Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) and a chieftain of the party, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, commended the decision of NEC to reposition and reinvigorate the party.
Okechukwu, in a statement issued yesterday, described the dissolution of the party structures as a welcome development in the repositioning of the party.
The Oyo State Chairman of the APC, Chief Akin Oke, also said he was not bothered by the dissolution of the executives of the party at all levels.
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY yesterday, he said he heard about the dissolution in the news like any other member of the party.
The Ogun State chapter of APC said it welcomed the NEC decision granting additional six-month tenure to the caretaker committee.
In a statement yesterday in Abeokuta, and signed by the Publicity Secretary of the state APC Caretaker Committee, Mr. Tunde Oladunjoye, the party commended “NEC for its bold decision on members still with cases in courts, and advised that those who are yet to comply with the party’s directive asking them to withdraw their cases from courts to do so in order to avoid similar sanctions from NEC.”
PDP Mocks APC, Urges INEC to Deregister Party
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday mocked the ruling party, stating that it is the insurmountable burdens and crisis within the party that led to the dissolution of its structures.
The party called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister the APC, saying that with the dissolution of wards, local governments and state chapters, the ruling party has become defunct and dysfunctional.
The main opposition party said no political party can function without its organs in the wards, local governments and states’ chapters as the APC has done.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said the APC, being overburdened by the weight of failure, humongous corruption as well as economic recession, violence, killings and hardship has set Nigerians free by dissolving itself.
“December 8, 2020, has gone into the history of our nation as liberation day, especially given the spontaneous jubilation by Nigerians over this step towards political oblivion by a political party that has brought so much pain on them,” it added.
It urged INEC to declare vacant the seats of all lawmakers elected on the platform of APC at the federal and state levels and conduct by-elections to fill the seats.
The PDP also described as stunning, the attempt by the APC NEC to blame Nigerians for the worsening insecurity in the country.
The PDP said that the APC should respond to Nigerians over its abysmal performance in governance instead of collapsing its structures and trying to indirectly use Buhari as the scapegoat for its alleged failure.
Ologbondiyan, in another statement, said in dissolving its structures, which is apparently a prelude to its reported name change, the APC and its administration have validated the call by Nigerians that Buhari should resign.
APC: PDP Facing Crisis of Confidence
The APC, however, fired back at the PDP, saying it is facing a crisis of confidence as a result of what it described as “its rudderless leadership.”
Nabena, in a statement yesterday said PDP’s call on INEC to deregister the ruling party showed it as a weak opposition party.
“If the PDP assumes this as its standard of opposition politics, then the country’s democracy is in danger,” he added.
According to him, with the PDP as the supposed “main opposition” lacking the capacity to provide rigorous and intelligent interrogation of the policies and programmes of the Buhari-led APC administration, the PDP is pushing Nigeria into a one-party state which the APC does not subscribe to.